Friday 18 March 2016

Hour of the Bees

Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar (Walker Books)
PB RRP $ 16.99
ISBN 9781406368154

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

I find so many debut novels far beyond what I expect. The quality of the writing, original approach to the story, and the characters all remind me how little I know about the world. Gratefully, this is another of those novels.

Lindsay Eagar has crafted a work of magnificent proportions. There is a mixture of voices and style, rich metaphors and symbolism, with settings like portraits hung in a gallery.

Twelve year-old Carol narrates this story. She is travelling with her parents, baby brother, and seventeen year-old step-sister Alta, to Grandpa Serge’s deserted sheep farm. Their intent is to clear the house, sell the farm, then move Serge -- who has lived alone for years -- to an expensive assisted-living facility. He is in the advanced stages of dementia and they have all read the pamphlets about what to expect and how to manage the old man’s behaviour.

When the family arrives, Carol becomes Carolina when the old man reminds her of their ethnic roots. Then the stories begin, always with Once upon a time; mysterious tales of a life-giving tree that is a gift, protecting the people of his village for centuries from ‘injury, ageing, disease and death’, and which controls time. These stories include Grandma Rosa, so filled with wanderlust that she spent most of her married life travelling the world. But what is truth, and what the meanderings of an old man’s demented mind?

The writing style changes dramatically when Serge tells the stories: it becomes lyrical, passionate and poetic; deeply stirring the senses.

The story addresses themes of ageing, death and dying, added to how many younger people view the older generation. Beautifully constructed and presented, this is ideal for the 12+ years age group.

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